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Breaking waves on the shore create healthful negative ions. Photo by Samantha Sutton.

By TL Grace West

What is it about Ocracoke Island that contributes to what sometimes is called “Ocracoma,” feeling relaxed and “oh so good?”

Growing scientific information reports that the presence of negative ions in our atmosphere is one reason for this enhanced sense of well-being.

You might think “negative” ions are not good, but the opposite is true. They are positive, or beneficial to one’s health.

Though doctors and scientists cannot say with certainty what exactly negative ions do for us, many experts agree that, at the very least, negative ions can help increase energy and improve mood.
Negative ions are electrically charged particles (atoms or molecules) that naturally occur in the environment. These ions have gained an extra electron through a process called ionization, which occurs when air is under the influence of energy sources such as crashing waves.

Air molecules also have the ability to lose an electron, which turns them into positively charged ions in closed spaces–inside your home, office or vehicles.

These chemical reactions happen continuously as part of what keeps us alive. Some positive ions are beneficial in helping our bodies fight off viruses.

However when positive ions outnumber negative ones, health problems can result (click WebMD).
When too many positively charged ions are in our bodies, symptoms of irritability, headache, anxiety, poor concentration, allergies and depression can occur.

In 1974, the Swiss Meteorological Institute studied two different environments: one where people reported symptoms of positive ions (headaches, etc.) and one where people reported feeling relaxed and alert. Guess which environment measured more negative ions?

Yes, there are a growing number of studies showing that as a result of people being exposed to negative ions, they feel better. Perhaps this is due to a rise in the brain’s serotonin (happy hormone) levels when influenced by negative ions.

In nature, negative ions are created by the flow of water (waves, waterfalls), water evaporation produced by plants, photosynthesis, summer rains, sunny weather, and fresh snow.

Mountain air is also saturated with negative ions because of the greater turnover or movement of air.

Does an environment with more negative ions result in longevity?

According to National Geographic writer, Dan Buettner, in addition to a healthy diet and active lifestyle, all five communities he identified where people live abnormally long lives are seaside communities with an abundance of negative ions. (Okinawa, Japan; Sardinia, Italy; Loma Linda, California; Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica; and Ikaria, Greece).
To avail yourself of the benefits of negative ions, it seems it is best to live by the seashore or in the mountains, or at least vacation in these places.

Just being outside in the sunshine (walking, gardening) also are recommendations reported to help.

Home air filtration products offer a number of options to gain negative ions inside, including electrostatic, UV radiation, water and advanced HEPA filtration technologies to eliminate airborne pollutants, allergens and viruses from immediate breathing spaces.

Also, waterfall systems installed in your home or office may be helpful for the production of more negative ions.

You can measure the amounts of negative ions (click  ehow.com) and research the reviews of different products (Google) to make informed decisions.

There is enough scientific evidence to make you feel good about your choice to live or visit Ocracoke.

Soak in those negative ions and enjoy.

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Terrilynn Grace West lives, gardens and works on Oc­racoke providing warm water massage therapy.


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